The Place Beyond the Pines is the third feature from writer-director Derek Cianfrance, who last helmed 2010’s critically acclaimed Blue Valentine. The film, whose title is the English meaning for Schenectady, N.Y., where the film is set, is a multi-generational saga that tells three interrelated stories.
In the triptych’s first section, Ryan Gosling—who also starred in Valentine—stars as a heavily tattooed, bleached-blond daredevil motorcyclist in a traveling circus who begins robbing banks on his motorcycle when he finds out his former fling, played by real-life girlfriend Eva Mendes (sorry, ladies), is pregnant.
The second deals with a naïve cop, played by Silver Linings Playbook’s Bradley Cooper, dealing with corruption in his department as he angles to become District Attorney.
And the third storyline centers on Gosling’s character’s teenage son, played by Dane DeHaan—the Leonardo DiCaprio look-alike who turned heads as the villain in Chronicle—battling past demons while struggling to navigate the treacherous high school landscape.
The ambitious epic has sharply divided critics, including our own. Marlow Stern feels it’s a poignant drama peppered with several riveting scenes, like Gosling’s one-man bank heists and a scene in the woods reminiscent of Miller’s Crossing, which will generate more and more acolytes over time, while Ramin Setoodeh disagrees, viewing it as a pretentious, ruthlessly somber affair that collapses under the weight of its own ambition. Watch them duke it out.